Q: What is a City?
A: A City is whatever is not Country. A Country is visited, but rarely lived in. A visitor romanticizes scenery, place, and rhapsodizes on the elegance of being displaced, pleasantly, out of the obvious City, but placed as bourgeois in bivouacs that complain of offal smells.
There is little such romance in the Country. The plainness and hardness of wind and dirt, heat and cold rain, anvil clouds from the darkening west and hail and jagged magnesium fire that leaps at the caprice of chaos and terror -- these all offend suburban sentiment. Sentiment, or kitsch, preens and visits through imagined lyrics. It drives on scenic routes in a minivan on a pleasant afternoon. It is nice, and it may even be good for the City, but it is not the Country.
A countryman feels dirt as the ground of rocks, the veil of springs, and the mysterious substance of growing things. Water he knows as the old testament was conscious of God: flooding terror whose absence shrivels life, but whose presence also cleanses the decrepit old August dust, whose snowmelt inaugurates the transmutation of the third day. His mind has joined with his bride, for there is only marriage in the Christian fields and forests of the Law. Together, and only together, they recognize the Word of Creation, and they see symbol in the holy earth.
Symbol reaches deeper than occasional sentiment into the ground, wider toward the sea, higher to the rulers of day and night. The sky is eternity and glory is the sun, secret moon and wilder loveliness. Flowers are his helpmeet and goddess, and in their petals are pirouetting ghosts, pas de deux, of ritual union and gladness. Water is beyond mathematics and chemical equations: it was primordial chaos, but the Dove whispered, fluttering wings upon the void in the silence before the Word: now it echoes sea and rain, storm and brook, springs in the desert calling forth the rose, quenching thirst.
The wind is constant anamnesis. Tomorrow and tomorrow, and all our yesterdays, are buoyed like flotsam on the pneumatic tide: time is cargoed on coruscations of cloud and wind. The scent of timothy in the sun, the moldering forest floor, the ploughshared earth and the honeysuckle banks and lilacs in April, apples and the rhapsody of scarlet gold in autumnal glory, the hearthfires seasoning the slate roof of November, and the clean violet snows of deep winter dusk: these all, on wing, carry faces and words and promised worlds, gleams of Trinitarian loves, wonders of Grace and friends, pain and Cross and loss.
The Country calls for poetry. It is only a modern conceit to try poetry in the City. But the City (not Pittsburgh, not place but psychic locale) is the torrid zone of passion, ignored substance, fogged light and a mist of forgetfulness, manufactured narrative and misplaced myth, lost like keys on a busy morning. Poetry is not written in the City: there are only intimations, trials, engineering of morphemes, forlorn alchemic experiments on fragmented minds.
Law is denied, defied ... thus epistemological night, schizophrenic Babel.
The City, today, is everywhere, signed as the old Jerusalem of abrogation. The Country has dimmed like Faerie.
On Palm Sunday, the Word of God is entering the City.
He is traversing it to ascend the Skull, in whose shadow the City wanes in curses.
The Cross is fixed on the Skull.
At the End, it is significant that Jerusalem, the City, will be made New.